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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Using Enneagrams

This week's assessment comes from Betty, who is writing an inspirational romance. She has been using the Enneagram personality typing for her characters and has a Type One heroine (The Reformer) and a Type Eight (for now) hero (The Challenger). She's wondering how a One and an Eight are going to get along.

Betty wrote, "It would seem that they share some values and could work well together in the social-justice arena, but I'm not sure how those types would be in the love department. I can certainly see conflict (mandatory for the story), and some certainly attraction, but how would/could you see them getting together? Or would they?"

So, first off, the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram) system is a really quite remarkable personality system. The symbol itself, depending on where you look, can be traced back to the time of Pythagorus or back to ancient Middle Eastern spiritual traditions. "Ennea" is Greek for "9" and "gram" means "drawing.

If your heroine is a Type One, she's a social reformer for sure. She advocates for change, wants to better the world, and her sense of right from wrong is strong. She's probably a tad obsessive-compulsive when it comes to being organized and scheduled. This perfectionism streak can cause some problems in her life, though, and lend itself to a heightened critical and judgmental nature. Type Ones are typically smart, realistic, practical, and have high standards, but can be resentful and impatient.

Type Eights want to be in control of their environment. They can be confrontational with ease, and even intimidating (so a police officer would fit nicely). They want to protect, be resourceful doing so, and are quick to make decisions. They don't talk in circles, present as very strong, assertive and self-confident. They don't ever want to appear vulnerable. They are called Challengers because they enjoy taking on a challenge. They are usually charismatic and able to persuade others to follow them through thick and thin. They can be so industrious with work that they lose emotional contact with people.

As to whether there can be attraction between these betcha. In droves. To quote one source, "Ones can find Eights exciting, physical, and earthy--all the things that they restrain in themselves. ...Eights recognize that Ones are as strong-willed and determined as they are: they cannot easily sway or bowl over Ones. Eights thus admire their conviction and are attracted to the challenge of getting closer to Ones."

They both clearly will share some of the same values, but will just take different means to achieve similar ends. They both want truth and justice in the world, and both are action-oriented to support whatever they believe is right. They'd both sacrifice a lot for their beliefs.

But this wouldn't be a common romantic pairing at all (but that doesn't mean it can't work). I'll give a few tips to make sure it does. :) Most of the tension in their relationship would come from the Type One getting uneasy with the Type Eight if the One sees the Eight pushing too far in the pursuit of self-interest. A One will deny herself in the extreme if something doesn't line up to their moral convictions, and even though they may admire the "go-getter" nature of the Eight, it could be a turn-off if too extreme. Once the One begins to see the Eight as selfish or insensitive, that would be the kiss of death in the relationship from her standpoint.

On the other hand, Eights are likely to see Ones as morally judgmental. Besides that, they might think they are hypocrites who talk the talk publicly, but don't walk the walk privately. They might think of a One as self-righteous, rigid, and unrealistic about how the world should operate. An Eight can even try to goad a One, provoking them with outrageous actions to get a rise out of them. This can often turn into extremely personal attacks, and at the worse, violence.

My advice to you is to be careful in how you portray your leading characters. Your hero doesn't need to be one of those guys who is always losing his head about him. He also doesn't need to show the heroine a selfish side of him. If the heroine always perceives the hero to be acting out of selfless motives (no matter how contrary his actions would feel to her), then there's hope for the relationship to last. You just can't be with someone you don't respect.

I'd also make sure that your heroine isn't one of those morally judgmental people. If you do have her being a bit judgmental, then have her get over that as you move her through her character arc, helping her see people and all their flaws (including her own) through a heavenly lens. She might struggle a bit with the spiritual side of things, as spirituality can't be hedged in the rational way she might like. (Sometimes having faith can seem like a most irrational thing...and this wouldn't sit well with her.) She'll want to be absolutely perfect all the time, and God wouldn't have much room to work with someone that perfect, you know?

I think I'll stop here, as I could go on forever, I'm afraid. The best source I found for Enneagram information was the Enneagram Institute. I'd canvass the site and really camp out there for a while. Amazing what all you can get on each type for free.

Any questions are welcome, of course! Good luck, and thanks for writing in!

If you missed my review of Amanda Flower's Maid of Murder cozy mystery, click here to read it! Her utterly fantastic debut releases today!

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Rena said...

What a great breakdown of the dynamics between an Enneagram One and an Eight! I have a blog all about the Enneagram, and I have talked with many authors who use the Types in creating their characters. Before connecting with many of them through my blog, I hadn't really considered using the Enneagram in that way- but it makes a lot of sense.

My husband is an Eight and we have several close friends and family who are Ones. I agree with what you said about their compatability- both types place a high value on respect. My husband is an Eight with a Nine wing, and that nine aspect of him (the Peacemaker) does mellow him out a little bit- I think if the main character in her book had a little of that as well, it might help him to be more likable. Sometimes a "classic" Eight type can be a little too intense for some people's taste. All though, they are very alpha male types, which is common is Romance books.

I'd be really interested in knowing what your Enneagram type is? :-)

Thansk for the good read!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks for the follow and discussion, rena! i didn't go into wings and centers and all that with this post...just could get too complicated, i thought! but maybe one day i'll do a series on them or something. i've already done one series on personality types, though! send me the link to your blog...i'd love to check it out!

i'm definitely a type 1. :) what about you?

Serenalyn said...

I'm a Three.... I will add you to my blog links. I'm trying something different and catagorizing them based on the Enneagram type of the author. I will add you in the One's! :-)

Unknown said...

I loved Eight - I think my main character is a definite Eight!

Miss Sharp said...

When comparing 2 different scales (for example, the current enneagram and the previous personality types we learned about), are there a lot of commonalities? For instance, if a person is a golden retriever type, are there certain numbers on the enneagram that are unlikely to match?

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

miss sharp - i think most all personality scales are fairly similar. each just has a different name, or might break down a more general type into 2 or 3 specific types (like the enneagram does). there are probably a few corresponding numbers to a golden retriever...but i'd think a number 6 (The Loyalist) for sure.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the link.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.